Out of Left Field with Dan Zalewski III

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Dan Zalewski 

Staff Writer

 

Do you remember the days when we judged the greatness of players by the number of bombs they could send over the wall? You know, the days when we immortalized Babe Ruth, named awards after Hank Aaron, and removed Barry Bonds from our video games?

Now I know what you’re thinking. What the hell are you talking about? The Homerun Derby is still one of, if not the best, reason to pay attention to the All-Star break.

The long ball trio of Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis and Manny Machado made it worth it to hang out on Eutaw street on a cold September night. (Well, that and the Boog’s Barbeque.) Plus, I cannot describe to you how many times I’ve seen that same video of Mike Trout taking one back to deep center. You know, the one landing in the Trout Net.

So, if homeruns still pack the stands from Seattle to South Beach, then why am I saying the appreciation for the long ball is gone?

Well, there is only one group of people that control baseball more than the fans, the front offices, and it doesn’t take much to see the lack of interest for those who hit ‘em hot.

There were eighteen players who were free agents this past winter after hitting at least twenty homeruns in 2016, and of those, ten were still free agents after we witnessed the ball drop (and Mariah Carey’s career drop faster).

At the beginning of this month, five still were seeking contracts.

What’s even more bizarre is that MLB leading Mark Trumbo took until late January to find a home for him and his 47 bombs. Which, fortunately for my Boog’s Barbeque addiction, is back in Baltimore.

Another story from the Twilight Zone is that of Chris Carter. He tied for top of the NL in a Brewers uniform last season. Now he’s riding the bench on the team that Babe built (and DiMaggio, Mantle, Jeter. with 27 championships, there tends to be a lot of stars).

Remember the struggle of Joey Bats and his inability to find a team to jump to before crawling back into the arms of Toronto? (Who overpaid, by the way.)

Owners and GMs just don’t want a guy who’s primary goal is to pull one deep to left anymore. What owners have been whispering sweet nothings about every night has been this thing called the “complete player”.

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told ESPN that, “It’s about the complete player and the value of the complete player,” and Atkins isn’t alone in his thinking.

This thought process has washed over front offices like the waves of guilt on a college campus every Friday night.

What that means to us, besides having yet another point that we can armchair manage our favorite teams over, is that the modern age of baseball statistics has reached a tipping point where managers are wringing out every bit of value possible from the data. Oh, Billy Bean would be proud.

Of course not everyone in the world of baseball likes this shift in thinking, and by that I mean the agents of these power bats, one of which told ESPN that and I quote “they obviously have forgotten that chicks dig the long ball”.

Now, I’m not buying that a player’s skill is related to how much the ladies like the size of his bat, but I’m not giving up on the homerun. Not yet! Just look at what you get from a homerun that you can’t get from your average, ordinary, everyday, slapshot batter.

No play changes the game like a homerun and no player is as intimidating as he who cranks. Plus there is no play that lights up a stadium quite like the homerun.

What are we supposed to put on Sportscenter Top Ten now? A double into the gap? #notmybaseballhighlights

There are only so many dunks I can stand seeing every Friday morning in between stories about drama with the Knicks. Sorry, Knicks fans.

But in the end of the day, for the GMs of the league, a run is a run is a run, and if they want to see if they can earn those runs off of bloop singles, who am I to stop them?